Feedback is an important part of the songwriting process. Co-writing is a great way of bouncing off ideas and getting immediate feedback while writing, but having another songwriter listen to your song, read the lyrics and give you their honest opinion is priceless.
That being said, it can be difficult when the feedback is mostly constructive. Songs are often personal and even when they’re not, we still may have spent hours re-working the lines and fine-tuning the melodies. Showing another person your song and having it broken down can be a challenging experience, so here are some tips to get through it and get to writing better songs.
Find people who understand how to give feedback
Tough feedback is actually really great, because it means that someone is taking the time to think about your music in a deep, methodical way. But it doesn’t (usually) help if someone sits you down and tells you that your song is terrible and leaves it at that. Find people who are able to frame the constructive feedback in a positive way while also pointing out the strengths in your song.
Wait to get feedback
Who says you need to get feedback right after you write a song? If you wait even a week before showing anyone the song, it will give you a chance to step back. The more time passes, the less precious a song will feel.
Change to a learning mindset
Often, songs are directly connected to our sense of self or our egos. This is normal, but to really improve your skills, you might have to change your mindset to take in new information. Tell yourself that you are learning from every comment, even the positive ones.
You are not a “bad” songwriter
It is worth mentioning that not every song states your capabilities as a musician or songwriter. Some songs are better than others, and most songwriters know this and won’t judge you for it. Focus on how you can learn to write more songs, maybe better songs—that should be the goal.
No song is perfect
I am a perfectionist and I’ve definitely gotten in my head about how a song needs to be perfect. In the past, I’ve gotten upset with feedback because I thought a song was perfect only to find out there were many flaws. Simply put, no song is ever perfect, and the sooner we understand that, the sooner we can get to improving our songs.
When not to ask for feedback
If you’re truly not ready for feedback on a song, you don’t have to ask for it. Maybe the song is too personal and no matter how much time passes, you can’t really bear to have someone rip it apart. Maybe you have a lot of anxiety over the experience and can’t bring yourself to feel comfortable with feedback yet.
If you want to share your song, find a person who will respect that and only tell you the good things. You could even ask a non-musician friend and warn them the song is pretty raw and you’re not ready for criticism. That’s okay.
Feedback tells you how your song is received
Sometimes we completely understand what our song is about, but the next person is a little confused. This is why feedback is so valuable: it tells you whether you have achieved what your song is trying to communicate. You can’t completely control how others receive your music, but you can come closer to understanding it.
Write down the feedback and come back to it later
Tough feedback can be a trying experience all on its own. If you’re not on a deadline, be sure to write down the feedback you receive and come back to it later. Likely, you will find your mind clears and you will be able to use the feedback properly.
Not all feedback is equal
Sometimes you can get a lot of feedback all at once and you’re not sure where to begin. Just because someone has given you feedback (even if they’re higher up in the industry), doesn’t mean you have to use the advice. In the end, if you are the songwriter, you discern what is important to change in a song.
Look critically at your own music
Whether or not you decide to look for advice on your music, hopefully these points will also help you to look critically at your own songs. You may not want to edit as you write, but understanding how to work through the experience will help you when you need to take a hard look at a song that isn’t working yet.
As a songwriter who worked alone for so many years, I wouldn’t go back to that. Feedback is one important way songwriters can work together and think about their craft—and in the right mindset, it’s a lot of fun.